If a threat is verified, in a fraction of a second the threat warning system activates the system’s pre-set threat response protocols and alerts personnel to the threat as it reports details for further analysis and/or action. In most circumstances, threat warnings are developed autonomously in response to threat detection data, because their systems are designed to process, interpret, and validate or invalidate the threat detection data much more quickly and accurately than is humanly possible, which also leads to an appropriate follow-through threat response more quickly.

Accuracy and speed in interpretation of threat detection data is vitally important to the threat warning process, both to ensure an effective, time-sensitive response when necessary and to avoid initiating an aggressive weapons response if the perceived threat turns out to be innocuous or non-existent. Threat warning accuracy is also vital in reinforcing confidence in the system among flight crews and other personnel who depend on it for mission survival.

Do threat warning systems all work the same way?

While all threat warning systems basically serve a similar purpose – separating actual threats from false positives by analyzing detection data – more advanced threat warning systems carry out those tasks better and faster with no additional power or space requirements. They rely on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that create image fusion algorithms to accelerate threat discrimination with increased accuracy and shorter processing times. Especially in active conflict zones and other hostile environments, seconds matter, so having threat warning algorithms that eliminate clutter during high speed and hover without relying on background subtraction is a true game-changer. Even more, this advanced threat warning system design approach also accelerates algorithm updates and system verifications for unwavering mission readiness in the future. Key benefits of advanced threat warning systems include:
  • •    Identifying real threats while eliminating false alarms
  • •    Providing high probability and few false alarms based on better threat detection input 
  • •    Long-range warnings and early cue times that are critical to defeat advanced threats
  • •    Reduced false alarm rates by rejection of potential false “detection” alarm tracks   
  • •    Improved ability to warn against threats in low confidence tracks of missiles

What threats do these systems warn against?

Missile systems and related weapons have become increasingly smarter, smaller, and more affordable over the past 25 years, making them more accessible not only to more countries, but also to more violent non-state actors (VNSAs), including groups like ISIS, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, and other paramilitary and terrorist groups. In addition, the interconnected nature of today’s internet infrastructure has also led to increased cyberattacks, many with the potential to reveal secure information and inflict very real damage to power grids, traffic control systems, and more. The threats that these warnings systems are built to expose can appear quickly, from multiple locations, with the potential to be lethal or highly destructive to massive numbers of people, as well as to governments, militaries, corporations, and infrastructures. The responses triggered by such threats can also be very destructive. These threats can include, but are not limited to:
  • •    Ground-, air-, or ship-based missiles
  • •    ManPAD missiles
  • •    Ballistic missile launches
  • •    Hostile fire projectiles (Small arms, heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft artillery, unguided rockets, and RPGs)
  • •    Cyberattacks

Due to the significant damage these threats represent, a TDR system’s effectiveness is measured by two factors – its ability to identify threats accurately and its ability to decide with certainty that a threat is real, including filtering out false positives. These two critical tasks are the primary jobs of threat warning, assuring confidence in warnings and prompting the most appropriate threat response, from deploying electronic or kinetic countermeasures to signaling for a more severe counterattack.

What targets do threat warning systems protect?

An integral part of advanced electronic warfare (EW) systems, and critical to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), effective threat warning capabilities increase the expected survivability of potential military, government, commercial, and infrastructure targets, including warfighters and other personnel, especially those in hostile environments. Threat warning systems can be used to protect a wide range of strategic and high value potential targets, including:
  • •    Military rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft
  • •    Navy ships and submarines
  • •    Military ground vehicles and field operations
  • •    Critical infrastructure facilities
  • •    Airports
  • •    Head-of-state aircraft 
  • •    Cargo ships and aircraft
  • •    Railroads and transit systems 

How are threat warning technologies implemented?

Traditionally, threat detection and response systems were developed to counter specific threats or threat types. The sophisticated, more advanced threat warnings of today, however, come from managed Threat Detection and Response (TDR) systems that address current threats while building anticipated threats into their capabilities to address future threats. To do this, they use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that constantly updates threat knowledge repositories to warn against new and evolving threats in real time, anticipate and adjust for new capabilities, and inform threat responses.

Over the years, threat warning systems have become smarter, faster, and more powerful, as well as much smaller, lighter, more energy efficient, and easier to integrate into security infrastructures. As a result, threat warning is now effective on numerous platforms, from jets and other fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and navy vessels to ground vehicles, cyber infrastructures, satellites, and more. This adaptability is a major advantage on systems that are built, implemented, and sustained to minimize vulnerabilities, prevent and repel attacks, and support long-term resilience against incursions.

Related topics to explore

Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM) • Airborne Countermeasures Systems • Artificial Intelligence (AI) • Autonomous Control and Decisions Systems • Common Missile Warning Systems (CMWS) • Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) Systems • Electronic Warfare (EW) • Infrared (IR) Countermeasures • Limited Interim Missile Warning System (LIMWS) • Machine Learning (ML) • Radar Deception and Jamming • Smart Defense Systems • Target Recognition Systems • Threat Analysis Testing • Threat Management Solutions •Threat Warning Analyst 

This information page is provided as a service to our readers by BAE Systems, Inc., a U.S.-based world leader in aerospace, defense, power, and intelligence solutions. Learn more about us here.

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